The battle between the TCEQ and the EPA is still making headlines, and, at least according to the headlines at the Houston Chronicle, the environmentalists have gained the upper hand!
With the looming possibility that Al Armendariz, regional EPA administrator, will take over all of Texas air quality permitting, as they have already done in the case of 39 Texas polluters, the strong opposition that Bill White is presenting to Rick Perry in the race for Texas Governor, and (don’t forget!) the sunset review of the TCEQ coming up in December, the TCEQ is in trouble.
“This has been brewing for about 15 years, ” our own Tom “Smitty” Smith told the Houston Chronicle. “But what’s happening now is you’ve finally have [sic - Houston Chronicle's error, not Smitty's, btw] an EPA administrator who’s got enough guts to stand up to the polluters.”
According to that same article, the fight, which started in response to the TCEQ’s issuing of flexible air quality permits in violation of the Clean Air Act, could potentially escalate from permitting to all environmental regulations. But with growing magnitude and environmental support comes growing backlash. Former TCEQ commissioner and now environmental advocate, Larry Soward, worries that the legislature will join forces with the governor to fight off the EPA.
Governor Perry and those siding with him are standing strong behind the argument that the EPA is wrongfully expanding federal control over an issue that they originally delegated to the state and that this action will hurt the Texas economy. TCEQ chairman Bryan Shaw claims that the fight has already begun to affect Texas economically, and Attorney General Abbott and state agriculture commissioner Todd Staples agree.
“The EPA’s regulation would directly impact thousands of Texas businesses and cost real jobs. Companies that will be endangered in Texas include 575 dairy facilities, 58 swine operations, 1,300 corn farms. No industry is more threatened than the cattle industry. If this rule is implemented, an estimated 28,000 beef cattle operations in Texas will fall under EPA regulation.”
According to Politifact, this is absolutely FALSE. The EPA ruled last week that farms will not be subject to these regulations, as they do not meet the standards of a “tailoring rule” that facilities that emit less than 75,000 tons of CO2 or equivalent would be regulated. Under this standard, this only really applies to power plants or BIG CO2 emitters like cement kilns and refineries– smaller factories and facilities would even be exempt. Yet Staples keeps trotting out this tired chestnut because, well, he’s running for re-election and that sounds good to voters that he is protecting their jobs.
Here at Public Citizen Texas we are continuing to organize for the TCEQ sunset review. If you agree with us that the TCEQ should not get a free pass and should have to follow the Clean Air Act (like everyone else), we encourage you to get involved and submit public testimony.
By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.